An entirely reckless climb
The four of us Mark, myself and a couple of regular guests, Pete and Kev set off in the sun from the Old Dungeon Ghyll pub car park. Right from the off it became quite clear to all that I wanted a little adventure and was prepared to find it. Our aim was to climb Great Gable via Grey Knotts and Green Gable. That sounded a fine idea, however unknown to the rest, my choice of ascent was to be deliberately spicy. No sooner than we had left the road did I decide to take the easy scramble up Sourmilk Ghyll. This ghyll scramble soon became more of a handful than any of us had thought.
Progress was initially fine but gradually due to the slippy rocks, the imbalance of our rucksacks, overhanging trees and deep water pools, private doubts started to enter my mind. Being a stubborn Yorkshire man there was no way that I was going to let anyone know these feelings. Anyway onwards we went scrambling up the ever-steeper ghyll. Soon Kev was to lose his first item (no, not an arm or a leg), but an expensive pair of cool shades (that’ll teach him to think about his image). For the first time in the ghyll we decided to play it safe and not climb a forty-foot section of waterfall. This choice soon proved to be prudent as we passed a bloated dead sheep that had obviously fallen down the section that we had bypassed. You would have thought that we should have learned from this, but just around the corner was another section of similar rock.
Kev, Pete and myself decided to give this a go by climbing directly up through the waterfall. I don’t think that I’ve ever put myself in such danger before. Bravado had obviously taken over. Onwards we scrambled clinging to any possible rock that wasn’t covered in slime. The force of the water was clearly sufficient to knock us off the rocks, but through sheer determination, plenty of guts and lashings of luck we managed to scale two thirds of this climb. The reason that I decided to clamber out was that I had two heart stopping moments. The first was when I fell and somehow immediately found the only dry hand hold of any size just where my outstretched hand landed and the second was where I had to adjust my balance on an exceptionally slippy rock and only saved myself by wedging two fingers in a crack. Thankfully when I did fall my fingers remained attached to me and firmly in place in the crevice. Needless to say with my heart pounding and thoughts of my family racing through my mind I managed to exit the ghyll with Pete and Kev directly behind me.
Anyway as we had spent a huge amount of time in this ghyll and hadn’t covered much ground we decided to plod on to the tune of “squelch, splish splosh” (we were absolutely soaked). We had a reasonable pull up to Grey Knotts, plenty to eat on the summit and then set off on an easy traverse to Green Gable. For once I was actually in the vicinity of Great Gable and could see the summit. This sight made me feel like climbing straight to the top, but no, I was ready for a little more excitement and decided that we should traverse around to the Napes Needle and have a play in the rock playground that surrounded it. This we did, however after trudging across what seemed like endless acres of scree and rubble Mark decided that he was feeling under the weather and would meet us at the top.
Ultimately a cracking sunset from the summit.
For anyone interested in climbing or scrambling there is wealth of excitement in the cliffs and gully’s of Great Gable. We seemed to pass endless possible climbing opportunities until we reached the needle. Now, we weren’t foolhardy enough (apart from Pete) to think that we could climb the needle but we did decide to have a go at “ threading the Needle”. As this unfortunately proved beyond us we decided to scramble up the nearest steep gully. This was partially grassed over but had plenty of wet rocks ready to catch us out. Again we pushed on and again came to a point that was exceptionally tricky and would have been a point of no return. Prudence once again prevailed and we decided to descend. This was to prove easier said than done. At one point Kev decided that is was too risky to descend whilst wearing his rucksack, so what followed was one of the funniest sights that I had ever seen on the hills. Quite simply Kev tossed his sack to me (Stuarts in reality as Kev had borrowed it). I was on a ledge and not prepared to risk falling off it so only made a half hearted attempt at catching it. The sack bounded down the gully picking up pace, just missed a patient Colley dog that was waiting whilst it’s master went for a climb, was chased by the dog, had climbers appearing from everywhere looking for the body that surely must have been attached to the sack and eventually came to rest about 400’ down the mountain side. During its journey various items fell out of the sack and were scattered far and wide. Kev never did find his water bottle. This scene was too much for me. I was laughing that much that I literally had to have a pee there and then on the ledge.
Sanity having been restored we picked up the various items, plodded up Great Hell Gate and met up with Mark at the summit. This was incidentally the first time that I had had a view from the summit of Great Gable. It was most certainly worth it. From here on we took a leisurely stroll back to the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel and indulged in a couple of pints of Theaktsones. Very nice.
This walk had been much more than I had expected, it had almost cost me my life, almost made me piss myself with laughter and had given me my first clear view from the summit of Great Gable. What else could we ask for? Kev might say that he would like the return of his lost gear and his watch repairing.
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